A professor in Singapore has invented a tiny chip that he claims could speed up how quickly batteries charge — while also making them safer.
Rachid Yazami at Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) has developed a chip that will monitor potential faults in batteries and alert the user if they are at risk. And it's minuscule — about smaller than a dime — making it easy to integrate into smartphones, as well as larger products reliant on lithium-ion batteries like electric cars.
Right now, lithium-ion batteries have chips that monitor voltage and temperature — but they don't measure the health of the battery, which degrades over time. Because of this lack of data, batteries have to be charged at a standard, relatively slow speed, to avoid accidentally damaging them.
But Yazami's chip, which takes electrochemical thermodynamics measurements, can accurately monitor this, as well as the state of charge. With this data, NTU Singapore said in a press release, the chip can ensure that each battery is charged safely and much more quickly.
"In addition to knowing the degradation of batteries, our technology can also tell the exact state of charge of the battery, and thus optimise the charging so the battery can be maintained in its best condition while being charged faster," Yazami said. "My vision for the future is that every battery will have this chip, which will in turn reduce the risk of battery fires in electronic devices and electric vehicles while extending their life span."
Electric batteries aren't at a particularly high risk of failure, but Yazami believes the risks will increase as they are used in more and more products. "Although the risk of a battery failing and catching fire is very low, with the billions of lithium-ion batteries being produced yearly, even a one-in-a-million chance would mean over a thousand failures.
"This poses a serious risk for electric vehicles and even in advanced aeroplanes as usually big battery packs have hundreds of cells or more bundled together to power the vehicle or aircraft. If there is a chemical fire caused by a single failed battery, it could cause fires in nearby batteries, leading to an explosion."
The chip, which took five years to develop, "will be made available for licensing by chipmakers and battery manufacturers before the end of 2016," NTU Singapore says. According to The Straits Times, Sony and Samsung are among the companies that have already expressed an interest in the tech.